Shortly after the fall of the Iron Curtain, political scientist Francis Fukuyama proclaimed in "The End of History and the Last Man," that Western style democracy would become the "final form of human government."
In the post-Cold War era, he expected peace and harmony as rational people in all nation's embraced liberal democratic principles and free market capitalism.
Not everyone agreed with Fukuyama's thesis.
In 1993, for instance, Harvard professor, Samuel P. Huntington, in "The Clash of Civilizations" predicted the greatest threat to international peace would not be economic conflicts but cultural clashes between civilizations.
Population explosions in Muslim countries, Huntington predicted, would not only lead to the rejection of "universal" Western ideals but to regional wars.
Since the publications of the Fukuyama and Huntington works, we have experienced incredible upheavals throughout the world. There has been nihilistic violence committed by toxic militant Islamic groups dedicated to destroying the West and to eradicating all vestiges of Christianity from the Mideast.
And in the aftermath of the Great Recession of 2008, there have risen angry populist groups on the left and right in the U.S. and Europe that have caused bewildered purveyors of progress and rational designs to panic.
These phenomena are the subject of a new book by Pankaj Mishra aptly titled "Age of Anger: A History of the Present." Mr. Mishra, a London columnist for Bloomberg View, impressively describes the philosophical foundations of Western modernity and how it caused our present predicament.
In Mishra's judgment, the seeds of our global mess were planted by 18th century Age of Enlightenment philosophers led by Voltaire, who believed that it was inevitable reason would replace Christianity, traditions and monarchy.
Such a rationally organized world would lead to a perfectible society, "a heaven on earth rather than in an afterlife." God was to be replaced with new absolutes — "progress, humanity, the republic."
Mishra observes, "Revolution or radical social transformation effected by individuals was increasingly seen as a kind of Second Coming; violence initiated the new beginning; and in the final approximation of Christian themes, history was expected to provide the final judgment on moral community brought into being by men."
The new religion of secular progress held that a meritocratic society, "whose individuals are free but responsible, egocentric but enlightened, would experience endless prosperity."
However, these modernists did not believe in social equality. "We have never claimed," Voltaire declared, "to enlighten shoe makers and servant girls."
This contempt the secular humanists have had for the lower classes led, Mishra argues, to the rise of totalitarian regimes in the 20th century. "Fascists, Nazis and Stalinists would claim to be real democrats, realizing a deeper principle of equality, and offering greater participation in politics than the bourgeois liberal democrats bothered with."
In the U.S., the scorn for working class folks by liberal reform Democrats became evident in the post-World War II era when these social engineers embraced Adlai Stevenson, II as their political hero.
Stevenson was, political analyst Michael Barone has written, "the first leading Democratic politician to become a critic rather than a celebrator of working-class culture — the prototype of the liberal Democrat who would judge ordinary Americans by an abstract standard and find them wanting."
Feeling unwanted in their own party, millions of blue-collar families became Nixon and Reagan Democrats back in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s.
Although these voters still held good manufacturing jobs — they voted for the GOP because they were angry over cultural issues.
In 2016, the angry children and grandchildren of working class World War II veterans living in depressed rust belt states gave Donald Trump his margin of victory because they felt economically left behind and ignored by a Democratic Party that leftist political analyst Thomas Frank holds is presided over by Martha’s Vineyard summertime residents — Ivy Leaguers and corporate elites who "exclude rule by people."
Mishra correctly describes the anger directed towards the "gaudy cult of progress."
Where he gets it wrong, in my judgment, is when he concludes "gun-owning truck drivers in Louisiana have more in common with trishula-wielding Hindus in India [and] bearded Islamists in Pakistan. . . . "
Blue-collar Americans may be angry but they do not remotely resemble intolerant radical Hindus and Islamist fanatics who are promoting anarchy and murdering innocent Christians and other minorities.
America’s working class citizens during the Great Depression, the maddening 1960s, and in the 21st century, did not turn to the streets and incite riots or join revolutionary groups.
They let off their steam in the voting booth.
If there is to be any carnage in American streets, it will be conducted by rabble rousing leftists who are intolerant in the name of tolerance, oppose civil discourse, refuse to accept the verdict of the electorate, and as historian Richard Hofstadter observed, in the pursuance of their goals employ "hatred as a kind of creed."
George J. Marlin, a former executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, is the author of "The American Catholic Voter: Two Hundred Years of Political Impact." He also is a columnist for TheCatholicThing.org and the Long Island Business News. Read more reports from George J. Marlin — Click Here Now.
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